|By Chris Rego, UAE [ Published Date: February 24, 2009 ]|
Prologue: Dear readers, this is the last sequel to my 'Uncle Sam' series. In the earlier yarns, I had detailed the triumphs, trials and tribulations of a typical Mangalorean boy who makes it big in the USA.
In this concluding part, he returns to his hometown to find that it has undergone a sea of change! But what lurks beneath – a veritable negative phase shift in attitude and mentality seems worrisome to our lad who has toiled in the land of Freedom & Liberty.
Read on folks……………..
Hey Dear Diary (DD),
Ever since I set foot in Mangalore, I've had this itch in me and it's making me restless. I have to do something to keep myself occupied but there is precious little to do or see. What do I do besides swat flies and dab at my forehead and underarms to stop dripping perspiration on the sofa as momma and I watch some inane soap after soap and/or movie after movie?
Earlier, while I was in the US of A, I used to write to momma. But now that I have finally hauled my butt to good ole Mangalore, she likes to get her jollies the old fashioned way! Tsk-tsk… you perv, what on earth were you thinking, dear DD? By 'jollies' and the 'old fashioned way', I mean 'news' (some folks might call it 'gossip') in person! So we yak and yak and when we are done for the day, we rehash the same topics and yak some more!
Anyway, DD, I write on my beloved laptop whenever uninterrupted power and sufficient battery charge permits, that is! Here goes and let me start off by narrating my unforgettable experiences upon touching Mangalore after a protracted work assignment in New York!
Touchdown at Bajpe was the stuff of dreams! Sigh! Hang on – 'dreams' as in nightmares! There we were gliding in, smooth as silk over that wonderful canopy of green. And the thought flitted across my mind – truly, how wonderful to be home! I could literally feel the jetlag lift off me – like vapors off a heap of blessed cow dung on a sultry Mangalorean summer's day!
And then T H U D…….
….Bump, bounce, wobble….thud… screech… whoosh (reverse thrust of the Turbines), rattle, rattle.. bump… ouch….
Some muttered Tulu –"Byav*@&%, yenchi Saav'ya, imbe imana budpena borida gaadi?"
Since I can't recollect the appropriate word in Tulu for 'flying', a verbatim translation would be – "B******, what the heck/hell, is he driving - a plane or a bullock-cart?"
More thuds, gasps….. screech……and finally P L O N K as a tinny voice gushes:
"Welcome to Mangalore International Airport. The local time is 1.30 PM and the outside temperature is a pleasant 42 deg C. On behalf of semi retarded Capt. Kapoor, who incidentally should have retired a decade back, we at Flying Coffin Airways wish to commend and thank you for your bravery in choosing to fly with us……….. blah blah…….We are positive that you'll enjoyed giving us the business as much as our management enjoyed taking you for a ride.. ……..wish you'll a pleasurable stay at Mangalore……."
Hardly were those words out, there was this mad scramble to spring open the overhead lockers. The way they jumped up, the wheels almost left the ground and for a fleeting second I thought that we were airborne again! I was amazed! Mangalore was improving I thought, coz the mentality of boarding/alighting from those No. 5 buses was fast catching on! The dissonance of the babble was amazing too – English, Konkani, Tulu, Kannada, Hindi, Beary and oh yeah – plenty of Malayalam too! Darn, when did they invade and infest Mangalore too, I wondered aloud to myself! I mean, why should they do it when they have God's Own Place to themselves and yet desire to sow wild oats in places as diverse as the Sub Saharan Africa to the Arctic?
Ah, some queries have no answers, dearest DD and hence I won't dwell on them! Let me move on.
A step onto the tarmac and the humidity hit me like a cudgel on the family jewels! My Armani T-shirt stuck to my back like it was glued-on by Fevibond! Only the multitude of flies that hovered around my head and flitted on my skin seemed impervious to it. The queue for immigration was serpentine and long. It took us a good hour and a half to inch near the Immigration counter to stamp our passports. The air smelt stale – like it had come from Noah's Ark after the flood waters had receded! The air-conditioning or fan (I'm still unsure of what it was) was giving out about 2 thimblefuls of stale humid air intermittently! I started developing a bad headache.
Standing ahead of me in the queue was this geezer who had downed a couple of shots too many in the flight. His alcoholic fumes and stale belches interspersed with plenty of tailwind (sic) worsened the situation. To add insult to injury, there was this clown behind me, attired in a 5$ blazer (DXB Duty Free I presume), who was yelling at the top of his voice in an alien language on his cell phone!
Now DD, let's get this clear for the record. Having worked in NY, I've got no issues with people, cultures, races, languages, dialects, sexual inclinations and suchlike. But here, standing in a queue, what appalled me was this chap's putrid dragon's breath's unrelenting assault on my nasal orifices! Aw shucks, that sure gives a new dimension to the adage – "between a rock and a hard place/between the deep sea and the Devil", doesn't it?
Collecting my baggage was an ordeal! Our neighbors from down south were chattering non-stop as they jumped all over the apology-of-a-conveyor-belt sorting out their precious luggage packed in cardboard cartons! Some were hermetically sealed, duct-taped and further tightly bound with orange/red nylon ropes! Cripes! Were there transporting baby Godzilla's or Dino's inside them, I wondered? Some cartons had names, telephone numbers, destinations et al in the highly likely event that their luggage would be lost before/after transit. Others were more innovative – they simply had their CV stuck on to them and the brightest ones had even their neighbors/friends CV's alongside theirs! Hoorah for ingenuity!
The ride to Mangalore was another nightmare! Our driver must have been either drunk or blind coz he didn't miss a single pothole! In retrospect, I couldn't blame either! I mean, despite what I'd read so much about the development taking place out here, and despite the frenzied pace of construction, where the hell were the roads? They were all potholes!
Somehow, despite the sweltering heat, dust, humidity and the utter chaos on the roads, I'd just about managed to 'acclimatize' myself with Mangalorean environs, when something untoward happened. And to believe that once upon a time, this used to be a once peaceful and kind-of laidback town.
Some goons swearing allegiance to some crappy outfit went on a rampage and desecrated the place where my poor old momma used to pray and attend daily services! She was so heartbroken by the mindlessness of it that she decided to change venues. And guess what DD - she went to this particular Church for some solitude. She tells me that there was a crowd gathered out there as a token protest against desecration of a place of worship. And then came along the Cavalry in Khaki! Things got messy! There she was engrossed in her second Rosary when some lathi-wielding clown whacked her. She had to spend a week in hospital to recover!
DD, I wonder what's happened to the good old Mangalore that I grew up in. Has it really gone to dogs in the sense that perpetrators of violence and self appointed 'custodians of faith and culture' run riot?
Nope, DD! I have faith in my Mangalore!
DD, the days are passing by and the recession in the US seems to worsen. The meltdown has gotten the whole global economy by the short hairs! I suppose my chances of getting back to the good ole US are getting bleaker by the day! If things don't improve I guess I'll have to let my roots down here – if not forever, at least until the storm passes me by.
The days are empty and I feel even emptier! To fill up the empty spaces in me, I've started chugging on some beers. Being jobless, I know that's the road to hell! But what the hell! Nobody can tell me what to do with my life! Not even my wife and I haven't got one as yet! So I make hay while the sun shines coz ultimately all roads lead to Rome! Ahem!
So there I was at a watering hole slaking my thirst on some chilled draught on a Saturday noon. The place was quite peaceful despite the prattle and giggles of some college-going kids with their girlfriends. And lo, out of the blue, in barged these chaps. A combo of sheer lust and frustration lurked in their eyes although to a pedestrian observer, it could pass off as self sought religious fervor! DD, the pandemonium that followed day – the chants, the epithets, the abuses, the leers, the gropes, the manhandling and the fear in those kids! And the whole goddamned stuff was shot by at least half a dozen cameras! I even saw a spindly looking chap land a punch on somebody twice his size! Gosh! If not backed by plenty of muscle in sheer numbers, I honestly doubt if he would have had the strength or temerity to swat even a fly on his shriveled up backside!
Sigh, from the past week I've been reading so much about the whole fiasco! I've had it! The last straw has been when those goons were let off scot free! Mangalore is simply not the place it used to be! How could my mom and future kids ever feel safe amongst these Neanderthals'? The next thing they'd probably say is that it is mandatory to sport saffron and smear my forehead with vermilion or sandalwood stripes! Goddammit! Nobody dare tell me what colors I should wear! Nobody dare tell the womenfolk in my family that noodles should be only on plates and not adorn shoulders too! I'll celebrate Valentine's Day everyday if I feel like it and post people Vals cards even on Independence Day!
But, I don't want to live in a place where barbarians and thugs call the shots and everybody has to kowtow to their harebrained dictates, illogical whims and prehistoric fancies! Let Obama clean up the mess left by the Burning Bush and off to the good ole US of A I go where even I could wear noodle straps if I so wish!
In the meantime, who knows? I might even try my hand at a stint in the Middle East! From the looks of it, even they don't cart around as much excess baggage as the self-appointed custodians of culture' back home!
Besides that, I could work on my tan too! What say, DD?